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THE MAN,  NOT THE METHOD
life was peaceful and uneventful. In 1848 to 1850 he substituted
for Libri at the College de France. Six years later, at the early
age of thirty-four, he was elected to the Institut (as a member
of the Academy of Sciences). In spite of his world-wide reputa-
tion as a creative mathematician Hermite was forty-seven
before he obtained a suitable position: he was appointed pro-
fessor in 1869 at the iScole Normale and finally, in 1870, he
became professor at the Sorbonne, a position which he held till
his retirement twenty-seven years later. During his tenure of
this influential position he trained a whole generation of distin-
guished French mathematicians, among whom Emile Picard,
Gaston Darboux, Paul Appell, finale Borel, Paul Painleve and
Henri Poincare may be mentioned. But his influence extended
far beyond France, and his classic works helped to educate his,
contemporaries in all lands.
A distmguishing feature of Hermite's beautiful work is closely
allied to his repugnance to take advantage of his authoritative-
position to re-create all his pupils in his own image: this is the-
unstinted generosity which he invariably displays to his fellow
mathematicians. Probably no other mathematician of modern
times has carried on such a voluminous scientific correspon-
dence with workers all over Europe as Hermite, and the tone of
his letters is always kindly, encouraging, and appreciative.
Many a mathematician of the second half of the nineteenth
century owed his recognition to the publicity which Hermite
gave his first efforts. In this, as in other respects, there is no
finer character than Hermite in the whole history of mathe-
matics. Jacobi was as generous - with the one exception of his
early treatment of Eisenstein - but he had a tendency to sar-
casm (often highly amusing, except possibly to the unhappy
victim) which was wholly absent from Hermite's general wit.
Such a man deserved the generous reply of Jacobi when the
unknown young mathematician ventured to approach him with
his first great work on Abelian functions. 'Do not be put out,
Sir', Jacobi wrote, 'if some of your discoveries coincide with old
work of my own. As you must begin where I end, there is neces-
sarily a small sphere of contact. In future, if you honour me
with your cjommunications, I shall have only to learn.'
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